The Father of Lies
Among other things, Jesus Christ came to expose Satan’s methods. Chief among these is the Devil’s consistent contradiction of God’s Word.
John 8:44 (KJV)
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
In John 10:10a (KJV), Jesus clearly revealed Satan’s intentions: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill and to destroy….” Satan’s ultimate goal is to promote death and destruction, as the Bible makes clear.
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.
The Devil holds the power of death, and one of his most effective aids in exercising this power is the lie that death is in reality the gateway to everlasting life and ultimate wisdom. He first told this lie early in Genesis.
Perhaps you recall that Satan’s first recorded utterance in Scripture was a challenge to the veracity of God’s Word. Satan said, “…Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1 – NIV). This deceptive misquote of God’s revealed Word led to his second utterance, “…Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4 – KJV), which was just the opposite of what God had said to Adam.
Genesis 2:16 and 17 (KJV)
(16) And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:
(17) But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
God said, “thou shalt surely die.” Satan said, “…Ye shall not surely die.” Scripture makes clear who was telling the truth.
Romans 5:12 (KJV)
Wherefore, as by one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Death, both spiritual and physical, was the result of man’s believing Satan’s lie. The idea that there is really no such thing as death is still being promoted today, even within the Christian Church. Satan’s purpose has remained the same: to promote the idea that humans do not actually die, but go on living after their death whether they believe God’s Word or not. In this way, he obscures the light of the good news of Christ and his resurrection, one’s only hope of deliverance from death unto everlasting life.
The false doctrine that the dead are alive and already in heaven or hell is so well entrenched in the average Christian’s mind that he has probably never considered its harmful ramifications. Understanding that Satan is the “father” of this lie explains why the consequences of believing it are so serious. The first, and perhaps most serious, consequence of believing this doctrine is that it changes the Christian’s focus from the appearing of the Prince of Life, Jesus Christ, to the coming of one’s own death.
In 1829, the Scottish Bible scholar Edward Irving, in a lecture entitled “The Second Advent of Our Lord,” stated that:
Instead of looking to that glorious event [the Lord’s appearing], and to all the circumstances connected therewith, the church has nearly forgotten it, and instead of it, to take up with miserable substitutes, such as that every man should think but of the day of his death; from which consideration there comes not joy nor strength, but weakness and oppression….
In contrast, the late Dr. Walter Martin, a noted Christian apologist, in his epochal work The Kingdom of the Cults, which well represents the position of orthodox Christianity on this subject, wrote:
The great hope of the believer, then, is the joy of personal union with the Lord, and this union, the Apostle Paul tells us, takes place at the death of the body.
How sad it is to teach God’s people that the hope of a Christian is his own death, and how opposed to God’s perspective that death is an “enemy,” as 1 Corinthians 15:26 (KJV) clearly states: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” Biblically, death is a thief not a benefactor. Death takes away life; it does not give a greater life.
In attempting to preserve the traditions of historic, orthodox Christianity, such teaching that the “dead” are “alive” blatantly contradicts God’s Word and further entrenches the Christian Church in this error. Those who have mistakenly propounded this doctrine have apparently overlooked the many verses plainly stating that the focal point of a Christian’s hope is not his own death, but the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ from heaven. For example:
John 14:2 and 3 (KJV)
(2) In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
(3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
1 Thessalonians 2:19 (KJV)
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
1 Thessalonians 4:16 and 17 (KJV)
(16) For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
(17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Titus 2:13 (KJV)
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
It is the occasion of Christ’s appearing from heaven that Christians should anticipate as the way of deliverance from the bondage and corruption of death. Jesus Christ is the only gateway to everlasting life and the only means by which believers will have access to God’s presence in Paradise. When Jesus Christ comes again, he will fashion new, glorious bodies for us (Phil. 3:21). Apart from having these new bodies, there is no hope of entrance into the presence of God. Near the end of his life, the Apostle Paul wrote the following about this occasion:
2 Timothy 4:8 (KJV)
Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.
Shifting the event that triggers our entrance into the presence of God from Christ’s appearing to our own death is nothing short of satanic subterfuge. In the minds of many, Satan has subtly changed the gateway to eternal life from Jesus Christ to death itself. Considering the past actions of God’s archenemy, this clever trick is totally consistent with his methods. The Christian’s hope is not death, but the appearing of Jesus Christ. When he appears, each Christian who is still alive will exchange his mortal body for a glorious immortal body, and each believer who has died will be raised to glorious and everlasting life.
Who Needs Resurrection?
A second consequence of believing the doctrine that the dead are alive is one that has drastic implications for biblical integrity and harmony. Believing that all the dead are conscious in heaven or hell reduces the great truth of resurrection to virtual insignificance. Death must be true death if resurrection is to be meaningful. If death involves only the body, with the soul and / or consciousness living on, then resurrection has lost at least half its significance.
If all believers have gone into the presence of God at their deaths, the monumental importance of Jesus Christ’s resurrection is negated. If Abraham, David, Job, and others were already in heaven as disembodied souls or spirits, enjoying the presence of God in “eternity,” then our enemy, death, had already been vanquished before Christ’s resurrection and eternal life was available without Christ. In fact, if it were true, as many teach, that Enoch, Elijah, and Moses went to heaven bodily, then Jesus is not even the only human in heaven with a body. Such teaching contradicts the Word of God, confuses sincere Christians, and dilutes their joy of hope.
It also leads to a question posed by Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther, and others during the course of Christian history. If disembodied souls are able to live and enjoy the presence of God in heaven for eternity, then what is the need for a resurrection?
William Tyndale (1492–1536), the heroic Reformation figure chiefly responsible for translating the Bible into English, wrote the following to combat the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church:
And when he [Sir Thomas More] proveth that the saints be in heaven in glory with Christ already, saying ‘If God be their god, they be in heaven for he is not the God of the dead …’ therewith he stealeth away Christ’s argument wherewith he proveth the resurrection, that Abraham and all the saints shall rise again, and not that their souls were in heaven, which doctrine was not yet in the world, and with this doctrine he [More] taketh away the resurrection quite, and maketh Christ’s argument of none effect.
And in like manner Paul’s argument to the Corinthians is worth naught. For when he sayeth, ‘If there be no resurrection we be of all wretches the most miserable …’ I marvel that Paul had not comforted the Thessalonians with that doctrine if he had [known] of it that the souls of their dead had been in joy, as he did with the resurrection that their souls should rise again. If the souls be in heaven in as great glory as the angels after your doctrine, show me what cause should be of resurrection.
Tyndale went on:
And you in putting them [the souls of the dead] in heaven, hell and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection … the true faith putteth the resurrection which we are warned to look for every hour. The heathen philosophers, denying that, did put that the souls did ever live. And the Pope joineth this spiritual doctrine of the philosophers together, things so contrary that they cannot agree.
If a body is not required for life in the “hereafter,” then God is going to a lot of trouble for no apparent reason by “reuniting” everyone with his body. And the physical death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, serving only to allow the disembodied soul or spirit to be united with a body that it obviously can do without, seems to be of little significance.
The teaching that the soul lives on after death destroys the uniqueness of Christian doctrine, that is, that Jesus Christ’s bodily resurrection is prerequisite to anyone being given everlasting life. With so much biblical emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, any doctrine undermining it is highly suspect.
That Sounds “Familiar”
A third consequence of believing the doctrine that souls live on after the body dies is that it plays into the hands of those who promote the practice of communicating with the dead. Today, many people, both Christian and non-Christian, attempt to communicate with the spirits of the dead, often in séances or via “channeling.” Such practices are similar to ancestor worship, historically a practice of most non-Christian religions. Pagans believe that the spirits of departed ancestors intervene in their lives, both for good and evil. Thus, as godlike beings, they must be worshiped and entreated. Superstition and fear of the unknown are always hallmarks of such false doctrine.
If there really are “departed souls” or “spirits” that are conscious and have knowledge of eternity or other matters of interest to those of us still earthbound, why not communicate with them? Because they are not there to answer. What will answer are evil spirits (fallen angels currently under Satan’s dominion) impersonating the dead. In the Old Testament, however, God expressly forbade communication with such “familiar spirits.” For example:
Leviticus 19:31 (KJV)
Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 20:6 (KJV)
And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.
Deuteronomy 18:10 and 11 (KJV)
(10) There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch.
(11) Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.
2 Kings 23:24 (KJV)
Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord.
They are called “familiar spirits” because these evil spirits are familiar with people who have died and can even reproduce their likenesses and personalities as if they were still alive in the realm of the “hereafter.” The judgment of God against Saul, Israel’s first king, which led to his death, was in part caused by his attempt to divine the LORD’s will through a familiar spirit impersonating Samuel (1 Sam. 28:7–9; 1 Chron. 10:13 and 14). It is appalling that the orthodox Christian position cites this record as evidence that the dead can appear and communicate to the living.
Sometimes a familiar spirit will appear to a person who is not actively seeking to contact the dead. Although such experiences are very convincing to those who see what appears to be a dead friend or relative, God’s Word exposes this counterfeit as another satanic attempt to convince people that the dead are actually still alive.
Scripture makes it plain that contacting the dead is a sin forbidden by God. Surely those supposedly living in heaven with God would not sin by initiating or participating in contact with the living.
There is nothing in the New Testament that changes God’s Old Testament prohibition against attempting to communicate with the dead. The reason for this is simple: The dead are unconscious in “gravedom” and cannot communicate with the living. If anything is communicated, it will be from evil spirits attempting to deceive people into accepting that the dead have not “surely died.”
Before her death in 1970, Eileen Garrett was for more than thirty years one of America’s greatest mediums. What did those spirits that spoke through her want to communicate? “Their primary mission seemed to be to prove the survival of human consciousness beyond death.” Acceptance of the doctrine that the dead are alive and can be communicated with may very well be the first step toward allowing such spirits into one’s life, making possible all manner of destructive results.
In their book, America, The Sorcerer’s New Apprentice, Dave Hunt and T.A. McMahon rightly observe that “one of mankind’s most compelling fascinations in every culture throughout history has been to communicate with the dead. Mediumship is one of the world’s oldest professions and has always been an integral part of nature religion in its many forms.”
The authors also quote from an article by Andrew Greeley in the January/February 1987 issue of American Health Magazine, entitled “Mysticism Goes Mainstream”: “Nearly one-half of American adults (42 percent) now believe they have been in contact with someone who has died.” Hunt and McMahon comment that the figure of 42 percent represented nearly a 60 percent increase from a previous poll eleven years earlier and state: “Any disease showing statistics like that would be recognized as epidemic.”
Death: Friend or Foe?
A fourth consequence of believing the doctrine of immediate entrance into heaven at death, and the corollary teaching that death is God’s will, is that it may subtly undermine a Christian’s will to live by causing him to accept death as a “friend.” But God’s Word is clear:
1 Corinthians 15:26 (KJV)
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
If a person is persuaded that death is a “friend” that will introduce him to the glories of eternity, he may adopt a cavalier attitude toward his own death. Satan can then wield the power of death more easily, manipulating the untimely death of his victims by fatal disease, murder, suicide, or accident.
Why should a Christian aggressively cling to life on earth and endeavor to live it to the fullest when a much brighter and higher existence awaits him with God “on the other side”? Does this teaching motivate a Christian to behave in a manner that will cause him to prolong, preserve, and enjoy his earthly existence and service to God? To the contrary, one’s belief in an immediate afterlife might even cause him to hasten his own death. In fact, history contains a great many records of Christians who have committed suicide so that they could “be with Jesus.” Tragically, they have often taken others with them to the grave by murdering them first.
One effect of this false doctrine may possibly be seen in the context of a serious illness. It is generally understood that an individual with a strong will to live is more likely to survive a life-threatening illness. How ironic that Christian believers who have access to God’s miraculous, supernatural power for deliverance often negate it by a truncated will to live based on their misunderstanding of the true nature of death. Unbelievers who think that this life is all there is can too often muster more of the innate and God-given instinct for survival than does a child of God. Does it glorify God that His people should have less desire than unbelievers to live as long as they can on earth? Does this help win the lost and persuade them of the benefits of following the way of Jesus Christ?
In the same vein, many Christians are very fatalistic about the moment of their deaths. Perhaps to deal with the fear of death, they assume the Lord already has the day picked. When their “number is up,” they will die regardless of their behavior, thoughts, or even prayers. They think that God alone determines the day of their death when He is ready.
There is, however, no biblical justification for the idea that the day of one’s death is “set in stone.” Rather, the Bible is replete with examples of men and women shortening or prolonging their lives by the way they lived—for example, Saul (1 Chron. 10:13) and Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:1–6).
Although believing that God determines the day of one’s death may seem comforting to a misguided believer in, say, an airplane bouncing through turbulence, it actually may work against him. In a critical situation, intense prayer and supplication would be much more beneficial than passively waiting to see what God’s will is. It is obvious that our own choices go a long way toward determining what kind of life we live and for how long. Thinking fatalistically, one is probably less likely to do those things that make for a long and healthy life.
If it were true that it is God who determines one’s appointed time to die, then death would be a friend and God would be its cause. Neither is true. God’s will for man is a long, healthy, and prosperous life as a testimony to His love and goodness (e.g., Prov. 4:10, 9:11; Eph. 6:3). Jesus said that he always did the Father’s will (John 4:34, 5:30, 6:38, 17:4), and he healed all who came to him in faith (Matt. 4:23, 8:16, 9:35; Luke 9:11). (Note: For a thorough exposition of the subject of how to biblically reconcile the co-existence of a loving God with evil, sin, and suffering, we encourage you to read our book Don’t Blame God!)
Of course, most Christians who teach that God kills His people seldom say it that way. They usually say, of a Christian who has died, that God “called him home.” What an incredible euphemism! Think about it. “Home.” What visions the word carries with it: a hot meal, a warm bed, a loving family. But what are people really saying about a saint who has died when they sweetly say that God “called him home”? They’re saying that God, Who is love, light, and goodness, ran him down with a bus, ate out his insides with cancer, or had him beaten to death in an alley. Repulsive? Yes, death is just that.
Although Jack Sharkey, former world heavyweight boxing champion, was hardly known as a spokesman for fundamental Christian orthodoxy, his statement in 1978 upon hearing of the death of his friend, boxer Gene Tunney, is representative of its confusion. Sharkey said that Tunney’s death “makes me think it’s too bad. We all get along and the good Lord takes us.” How can the good Lord do bad things?
The Word of God clearly states that God is “good” (Mark 10:18) and that death is an “enemy” to His people (1 Cor. 15:26). God tells us also that it is the Devil who holds the power of death (Heb. 2:14) and that the Devil was a “murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44).
It should be noted here that although death is of the Devil, this does not mean that a Christian who dies is “bad” or “out of fellowship” or “possessed.” Because of the fall of Adam, physical death is the inevitable end of life for each person unless he is still alive when Christ again appears.
If the Church fails to change its wholly untenable biblical position that the “dead” are actually “alive,” it will unwittingly continue to play into the hands of spiritualists, adherents of Eastern mysticism, and the proponents of the rapidly growing New Age movement, who deny both the significance of Christ’s resurrection and the unique opportunity for everlasting life through faith in his name. It will also continue to offer people a weak and false hope based on paganism rather than the comforting and satisfying truth of God’s Word.